Life After Death Row?

After 38 years on Death Row, one of Jacksonville’s most notorious killers, Jacob Dougan, who prosecutors said terrorized the city with calls for a racial war, is getting a 
new trial.

Duval Circuit Judge Jean M. Johnson vacated Dougan’s sentence and ordered a new trial on charges of first-degree murder for the stabbing and shooting death of Stephen Orlando, a white hitchhiker, on June 17, 1974.

State Attorney Angela Corey’s office said it intends to appeal the judge’s July 24 ruling.

This is Dougan’s fourth trip through the judicial system. He was first sentenced to death on April 10, 1975 and later resentenced on Oct. 25, 1979, and Dec. 4, 1987, after winning earlier appeals on a variety of factors, from ineffective appellate counsel to conflict of interest.

“This decision does not excuse what happened in 1974 — the crime and the great sorrow. It does provide an opportunity, almost 40 years later, to resolve this case once and for all. We would like to try — again — to do that,” wrote Mark Olive, the attorney who represented Dougan in his latest appeal, in an email.

Dougan, now 66, a former Eagle Scout and community leader, sits on Death Row at Union Correctional Institution in Raiford.

Prosecutors allege Dougan was one of four men who picked up white hitchhiker Stephen Orlando, drove him to a secluded area in Jacksonville Beach, stabbed him with a knife and shot him twice in the head.

A note, attached to Orlando’s body with the knife, read, “Warning to the oppressive state. No longer will your atrocities and brutalizing black people should go unpunished. The black man is no longer asleep. The revolution has begun and the opposed will be victorious. The revolution will end when we are free. The Black Revolutionary Army. All power to the people.”

Fingerprints from some tape recordings sent to the murder victim’s relatives and local media outlets matched Dougan’s fingerprints from records of the two years he had spent in the Air Force, and he was arrested in September 1974 for Orlando’s slaying.

The tapes, made a few days after the slaying, said, “Stephen A. Orlando was not murdered; he was executed and made to pay for the political crimes that have been perpetrated upon black people. No longer will your crimes go unpunished. A revolution has begun and you are the enemy.”

The tapes went on to say that more whites would be killed without mercy because of “400 years of hangings, castrations, brutalities and raping of my black people.”

Judge Johnson, in her 239-page ruling, determined Dougan’s trial lawyer, Ernest Jackson, was ineffective during the guilt phase of Dougan’s trial and was having an affair with Dougan’s sister. He eventually divorced his wife and married her. He is now deceased. She is still alive.

“Trial counsel essentially presented no defense,” the judge wrote. “Defendant has shown trial counsel’s errors in total were so serious as to undermine confidence in the outcome. Thus, Defendant has shown a reasonable probability that, but for counsel’s errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different.”

The judge also granted relief in a claim on the number of aggravating factors versus mitigating factors for the jury to consider whether Dougan deserved the death penalty or life in prison.

“A reasonable probability exists that if presented in the aggregate, the sentence may have found the balance of aggravating and mitigating circumstances do not warrant death,” the ruling stated.

Dougan, who was 28 at the time of his arrest, was indicted on Sept. 26, 1974, for first-degree murder. On March 5, 1975, a jury found him guilty and recommended a death sentence by a vote of 10-2, and on April 10, Duval Circuit Judge Hudson Olliff sentenced him to death.

Two of Dougan’s co-defendants, Elwood Barclay and Dwayne Crittenden, are serving life sentences in prison for Orlando’s murder; another defendant, William Hearn, testified that he was at the scene the night Orlando was killed and implicated the other men. Hearn received a 15-year sentence, but was out of prison in less than five years.